SPORT

Newcastle Fans Warned Not To Taunt Sunderland Boss Paolo Di Canio

11/04/2013 11:44 BST

Newcastle United fans have been warned by police not to taunt Paolo Di Canio, the manager of hated rivals Sunderland, with fascist salutes.

The North East Premier League clubs meet on Sunday at St James' Park, with supporters from both sides relishing the chance to mock the other.

But police have warned fans against using racist of offensive gestures during the derby match.

Di Canio's controversial appointment led former Foreign Secretary David Miliband to step down from Sunderland's board because of the Rome-born manager's "past political statements".

paolo di canio

Di Canio is likely to be targeted by Newcastle fans on Sunday

Di Canio, 44, was fined and handed bans for making right-arm salutes to fans in 2005 when he was a Lazio player.

Since he joined Sunderland as Martin O'Neill's replacement, he issued a statement denying he was a racist adding "I do not support the ideology of fascism".

Ahead of the Tyne-Wear derby, operations commander chief superintendent Steve Neill, said: "Offensive gestures, particularly those with a suggestion of racist connotations, are completely unacceptable and we will take positive action against anyone seen acting in an offensive or racist manner.

"While some individuals may see this sort of behaviour as a means of poking fun at opposing fans - it is not a joke.

newcastle united fans paolo di canio

Newcastle fans may not be able to resist taunting Di Canio

"Offensive behaviour can constitute a criminal offence and such behaviour is taken seriously.

Last year's Tyne-Wear derby at St James's Park resulted in Sunderland duo Stéphane Sessègnon and Lee Cattermole both being sent off, while the then Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill had to be restrained after provocation from his Newcastle counterpart Alan Pardew on the touchline.